Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 10, Chapter 6 (1176a30-1177a12)

By Aristotle

Book 10, Chapter 6 (1176a30-1177a12)

  • At the back end of this last book, Aristotle is going to address happiness—since that's the goal of all human existence.
  • To recap: happiness is not a virtue. It's an activity. But it has to be the best, most complete activity, the one that we would seek out for its own sake.
  • This activity would have to be associated with virtue, since these are the best types of things for humans to do.
  • The "pleasures of play" also fit the bill, but can ruin a person if they pursue this and nothing else.
  • All we need to do is look at the virtuous person to figure out what's the best activity. (Yeah, it has to do with virtue. Surprise!).
  • In the end, Aristotle can't agree that all of life's purpose leans towards play. It just isn't serious enough.
  • However, he does find value in the kind of play that helps us to be virtuous. Aristotle acknowledges that we can't be serious all the time and require relaxation.
  • But relaxation isn't an end in itself—it's an activity. So Aristotle puts his foot down: happiness is serious business. It has to do with virtue, not frivolity or bodily pleasures.